Andaman and Nicobar Command
The Andaman and Nicobar Command is a Tri-service theater command of the Indian Armed Forces, based at Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a Union Territory of India. It was created in 2001 to safeguard India's strategic interests in Southeast Asia and the Strait of Malacca by increasing rapid deployment of military assets in the region. As of 2014, the command includes 15 ships of the Indian Navy, two Navy Sea bases, four Air Force and Naval Air bases and an Army brigade. The Andaman and Nicobar Command is India’s first and only joint tri-service command, with rotating three-star Commanders-in-Chief from the Army, Navy and Air Force reporting directly to the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.
Previously there was a consideration to replace Fortress Commander, Andaman and Nicobar Islands (FORTAN) with a Far Eastern Naval Command (FENC). The previous plan to set up FENC was set in motion in 1995 following a closed-door meeting in Washington between then Indian Prime Minister, P. V. Narasimha Rao, and then US president, Bill Clinton. At the time, Pentagon officials made a formal request to the United Front coalition government in New Delhi to open a base in the islands.
The 750-km long Andaman and Nicobar archipelago comprise a chain of 572 islands, and is located about 1200 km from mainland India, but is merely 90 km from Indonesia and 50 km from Myanmar. An Indian armed forces command at Andaman and Nicobar Islands would help in to prevent smuggling, piracy, drug and gun trafficking, poaching and illegal immigration in the region and especially in the Malacca Strait. The A&NC would also be in a position to assist the multinational Malacca Straits Security Initiative, aimed at curbing threats in the Malacca Straits. An Indian command in the islands could also counter any future threat from China, which was rumoured to have set up a surveillance post in Myanmar's Coco Islands, 40 km off the northern tip of the Andamans, but this was proved incorrect.
The Group of Ministers' (GoM) report on Reforming the National Security System recommended the replacement of the FORTAN, under the Indian Navy, with a Joint Andaman and Nicobar Command which will control the assets of the tri-services and the Coast Guard on the islands. The GoM had recommended that the Commander of this Joint Command would report to the proposed Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). The Andaman and Nicobar Command was in place by the end of September 2001.
The Andaman and Nicobar Command is commanded by a three-star officer (rank of Lieutenant General of the Indian Army or equivalent) who reports directly to the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee in New Delhi. The Chief of Staff of the command is a two-star officer; each component (sea, land, air) is commanded by a one-star officer.
Vice Admiral (later Admiral and CNS) Arun Prakash was the first Commander–in–Chief of the Andaman & Nicobar Command (CINCAN). The command is currently headed by Vice Admiral Pradeep K Chatterjee, who took command on 1 July 2014, and is the 12th commander.
As of 2014, there are 15 surface warships of the navy based at INS Jarawa, Port Blair under the A&N Command, up from 13 ships in 2011. Naval vessels include Trinkat-class patrol vessel, Mk.3 LCU vessels, Polnochny-C/D class amphibious warfare vessels and the SDB Mk.3 large patrol craft. The port bases amphibious platforms, offshore patrol vessels (OPV) and fast attack crafts (FAC). Since 2013, two Saryu-class patrol vessels have been home-ported at Port Blair. The command provides logistical and administrative support to naval ships which are sent on deployment to East Asia and the Pacific Ocean.
For amphibious warfare, the command has a large Landing Ship Tank (LST) that can carry about 220 fully armed troops along with six trucks, 10 main battle tanks and 12 infantry combat vehicles for long duration. For short duration, an 800-men battalion could also be carried. The vessel also has a medium LST, apart from several Landing Craft Utility (LCU) with capacity to carry and beach 35 armed troops. The 108 Infantry Brigade of the Indian Army, comprising three battalions, which includes the 21 Bihar, is deployed to the A&N Command.
Dornier Do 228 maritime patrol craft, operating from airfields at Port Blair, Car Nicobar, Campbell Bay and Diglipur maintain surveillance over the sea areas and approaches. The Andaman & Nicobar region of the Indian Coast Guard also falls under the purview of the command. In July 2012, the navy commissioned INS Baaz, a naval air station which is located 300 nautical miles south of Port Blair and is the southernmost air station of the Indian Armed Forces.
In 2013, the navy proposed to station a nuclear submarine and a landing deck platform at the islands in the future, and the Indian Air Force has decided to station Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters on the islands along with increasing the number of operational airfields. The army's single brigade is planned to be increased by deploying a division size force under the command.
The Andaman and Nicobar Command manages Indian engagement with regional navies of Southeast Asia. It conducts bi-annual coordinated patrols with the navies of Thailand and Indonesia, the annual SIMBEX maritime exercises with Singapore, and the biennial Milan multilateral naval exercises. The Command also patrols India's exclusive economic zone to suppress gun running, narcotics smuggling, piracy, and poaching, and conducts maritime surveillance, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
Surface and airborne assets from the Andaman and Nicobar Command took part in the effort to search Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The command contributed navy ships INS Saryu, INS Kesari and INS Kumbhir, and coast guard vessels ICGS Kanaklata Baruah, ICGS Bhikaji Cama and ICGS Sagar. For aerial maritime surveillance, the command dedicated two navy Boeing P-8I Neptunes, coast guard Dornier Do 228, and Indian Air Force C-130J Super Hercules from Port Blair, and navy Dornier Do 228 from Car Nicobar. The Commander-in-Chief Andaman and Nicobar Command was nominated as the Overall Force Commander of the Indian forces, which included air force Mil Mi-17, and navy Shivalik-class frigates INS Satpura and INS Sahyadri, and patrol vessel INS Batti Malv from the Eastern Naval Command.
List of bases
The following are the air and naval bases under the A&C command.
- INS Jarawa, naval base at Port Blair.
- INS Kardip, a forward operating naval base at Kamorta island.
- INS Utkrosh, along with the civilian Veer Savarkar International Airport; a joint Navy and Air Force air base at Port Blair.
- INS Baaz, a naval air station at Campbell Bay.
- Car Nicobar Air Force Base, at Car Nicobar.
- NAS Shibpur, a naval air station at Diglipur.
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